Walter Dean Myers Harlem What does he mean by this? 1 They took the road in Waycross, Georgia I believe this poem describes how far Skipped over the tracks in East St. Louis blacks has came before most came to Took the bus from Holly Springs Harlem Hitched a ride from Gee’s Bend Took the long way through Memphis The third deck down from Trinidad A wrench of heart from Goree Island A wrench of heart from Goree Island To a place called Harlem 2 Harlem was a promise Harlem was a place where blacks could be Of a better life, themselves. They brought new tradition of a place where a man and songs to Harlem. Didn’t have to know his place Simply because He was Black They brought a call A song First heard in the villages of Ghana/Mali/Senegal Calls and songs and shouts Heavy hearted tambourine rhythms Loosed in the hard city Like a scream torn from the throat Of an ancient clarinet 3 A new sound, raucous and sassy Cascading over the asphalt village Breaking against the black sky over 1-2-5 Street Announcing Hallelujah Riffing past resolution Yellow, tan, brown, black, red Green, gray, bright Colors loud enough to be heard Light on asphalt streets Sun yellow shirts on burnt umber Bodies Demanding to be heard Seen Sending out warriors 4 From streets known to be Mourning still as a lone radio tells us how Jack Johnson Joe Louis Sugar Ray Is doing with our hopes. We hope We pray Our black skins Reflecting the face of God In storefront temples Jive and Jehovah artists Lay out the human canvas The mood indigo 5 A chorus of summer herbs Of mangoes and bar-b-que Of perfumed sisters Hip strutting past Fried fish joints On Lenox Avenue in steamy August A carnival of children People in the daytime streets Ring-a-levio warriors Stickball heroes Hide-and-seek knights and ladies Waiting to sing their own sweet songs Living out their own slam-dunk dreams Listening For the coming of the blues 6 A weary blues that Langston knew And Countee sung A river of blues Where Du Bois waded And Baldwin preached There is lilt Tempo Cadence A language of darkness Darkness known Darkness sharpened at Mintons Darkness lightened at the Cotton Club Sent flying from Abyssinian Baptist To the Apollo. 7 The uptown A Rattles past 110th Street Unreal to real Relaxing the soul Shango and Jesus Asante and Mende One people A hundred different people Huddled masses And crowded dreams Squares Blocks, bricks Fat, round woman in a rectangle Sunday night gospel “Precious Lord…take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand…” Caught by a full lipped Full hipped Saint Washing collard greens In a cracked porcelain sink Backing up Lady Day on the radio 8 Brother so black and blue Patting a wide foot outside the Too hot Walk-up “Boy, You ought to find the guys who told you you could play some checkers ‘cause he done lied to you!” Cracked reed and soprano sax laughter Floats over a fleet of funeral cars In Harlem Sparrows sit on fire escapes Outside rent parties To learn the tunes. In Harlem The wind doesn’t blow past Smalls It stops to listen to the sounds Serious business A poem, rhapsody tripping along Striver’s Row Not getting it’s metric feel soiled On the well-swept walks Hustling through the hard rain at two o’clock In the morning to its next gig. 9 A huddle of horns And a tinkle of glass A note Handed down from Marcus to Malcolm To a brother Too bad and too cool to give his name. Sometimes despair Makes the stoops shudder Sometimes there are endless depths of pain Singing a capella on street corners And sometimes not. Sometimes it is the artist looking into the mirror Painting a portrait of his own heart. Place Sound Celebration Memories of feelings Of place A journey on the A train That started on the banks of the Niger And has not ended Harlem.
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